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Becoming a doctoral candidate: from expert to learner and back again

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/EU/International)

Duration: Full-time – up to four years fixed term

Application deadline: 27 May 2024

Interview dates: Details will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2024 

For queries please contact: Professor Damian Sutton


An exciting doctoral opportunity has arisen to study the experiences of mid- and late-career postgraduate researchers in the creative arts, who have already become an expert in a similar or adjacent field.

Project details

Over the past few decades an increasing number of graduate student researchers have established expert careers before undertaking a PhD in their own or a new field. In the area of the arts and humanities, this can mean choosing to do a creative arts PhD in a field in which one is already an expert, or choosing to leave a different career in order to embark on a creative arts PhD. The privileged status given to those with established careers can present a challenge when it comes to their learning and studying for a doctorate, and this often intersects with other challenges related to mature study, such as continuing family and career commitments. In the creative arts, returning to study can involve seeing one’s expert practice from a new angle, or it can mean engaging with arts methodologies for the very first time.

Whilst there is long-term research established around the study of mature learning, staff and professional doctorates, as well as study/life balance, and whilst there is substantial literature on practice research methodology in the arts, there is limited understanding in how these intersect in the experience of experts from practice, education, and business, who choose to return to study for higher degrees. With a focus on the creative arts, this research will explore experiences of PGRs as they journey from professional expert to learner, before becoming an expert once more in a new way.


This is a fully-funded studentship, including tuition fees and stipend/bursary.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.


  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years.
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS academic overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).

How to apply

To find out more about the project, please contact Professor Damian Sutton

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

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